Nigeria Weekly News Highlights #17
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Nigeria Weekly News Highlights

May 6, 2000

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Thursday, May 4 , 2000

German ships arrive Nigeria May 12 By Moses Ayo Jolayemi, Foreign Affairs Reporter

TWO German ships Brandenburg and Emden - will on May 12 sail into Nigerian shores as part of efforts to strengthen ties between the two countries.

The ships will bring into the country a task group of the German Navy. According to the First Secretary of the embassy in Lagos, Andreas Peschke, the visit will offer the German sailors an opportunity to establish contact with their Nigerian counterparts as well as the civilians.

The visit, the first since President Olusegun Obasanjo took office on May 29, 1999, the embassy said, will enable the country's naval officers and other prominent personalities to learn about German ship building and technology.

Brandenburg and Emden which left Germany on March 1 are billed to visit 10 countries - three European and six African ports - according to the embassy. They are commended by Hartmuth Wichman of the 2nd Frigate Squadron. As part of the two-day visit, the task group and the embassy will jointly organise a boat shuttle for journalists so as to get first information on German naval technology.

The visit forms part of the annual training programme of the German Navy. This year's programme, Peschke stated, focuses on Africa. They are expected to return to their home port at Wilhelmshaven on June 24.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, May 4 , 2000

Phone lines now N15,000 from Emeka Nwakpa, Abuja

GOVERNMENT yesterday approved a further 25 per cent slash in the installation cost of telephone and downward review of international and domestic call charges by 25 and 50 per cent. It means that the installation of a new telephone landline will now cost N15,000 against the current N20,000 charged by the Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL).

Information Minister Jerry Gana who briefed State House reporters shortly after yesterday's meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), said that the reduction of the call charges would affect only calls made during off-peak periods. According to Gana, the off-peak period include 7.00 p.m. and 7.00 a.m, weekends and public holidays, adding that the reduction in the installation and tariff charges was sequel to a recent memo by the NITEL which was accepted by the President.

He also said government had raised an inter-ministerial committee to review the country's membership of international organisations and bodies with a view to rationalising them and conserving scarce foreign exchange for the country. The committee, he said, would comprise Minister of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Justice National Planning Commission, the Chief Economic Adviser to the President and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

He disclosed that the committee would collate relevant data in respect of such bodies to which ministries and agencies belong, evaluate and prioritise international organisations which Nigeria should belong taking into account their present day relevance.

The committee is also expected to evaluate and determine Nigeria's assessed subscription to internation bodies and the impact of the ministries and agencies representing Nigeria in such bodies and advise whether or not the country should pay arrears of subscription to any of these organisations or withdraw its membership.

Prof. Gana also said President Obasanjo who presided over yesterday's meeting, briefed the council on the new minimum wage as earlier announced in his goodwill message to workers on May Day.

On the crisis in Sierra Leone particularly the recent abduction of some members of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force, he said a high-powered Nigerian delegation was billed to go to Freetown to negotiated their release from the Foday Sankoh-led Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels.

The Great Lake region and Congo Democratic Republic were other issues deserving attention. The minister said President Obasanjo briefed the council on the outcome of the Algiers mini-summit on the region under the auspices of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

He said both Nigeria and South Africa had agreed to contribute soldiers to the UN Peace Keeping Force, adding that Nigeria would raise a battalion comprising 650 soldiers.

Already, the Defence headquarters had despatched about 50 military officers to complement the UN observer team to Congo.

The officers are to spend about one year in the mission code-named MUNOC.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

Thursday, May 4 , 2000

U.S. organises workshop for govt's spokespersons

By Moses Ayo Jolayemi, Foreign Affairs Reporter

THE United States (U.S.) embassy, in its bid to strengthen Nigeria's democracy, is co-sponsoring a four-day workshop for government spokespersons in the country.

The two-part workshop, which takes off tomorrow, is organised by the Public Affairs Section of the embassy in conjunction with the Office of the Special Assistant to President Olusegun Obasanjo on Media and Publicity and the Information Ministry.

According to a statement on Tuesday by the Public Affairs Section of the embassy, the workshop is aimed at helping government spokespersons "sharpen their skills in making information available to the public and thus helping to strengthen Nigeria's fledgling democracy."

The first part of the workshop, which is for ministerial spokespersons, will take place in Abuja between tomorrow and Saturday. The second part, the embassy explained, which will take care of spokespersons of governors from all the 36 states of the federation, will take place between Monday and Tuesday, next week.

The workshop, which is the first of its kind for government spokespersons since the country returned to democratic rule last May 29, will be conducted by the former Assistant Secretary of State and spokesperson for the State Department, Mrs. Phillis Oakley and a South Africa-based American media consultant, Noluthando Crockett-Ntonga.

The opening of the first session will be held at the Press Centre in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, while the second day's programme is scheduled to hold at the USAID/OTI office at Maitama District, Abuja.

THE Nigerian GUARDIAN Newspaper

FG gets N2.3b from sale of Useni's properties By Bukola Ojeme

ABUJA— FEDERAL Government, yesterday realised N2.350 billion from the sale of four properties it seized from former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Lt.-Gen. Jeremiah Useni.

This is N1.2 billion in excess of the N1.1 billion projected by the auctioneers.

A total of 16 bids were announced, of which three were voided because they lacked addresses and were also unsigned.

Principal Partner of Oyom & Co., auctioneers of the properties, Mr. Ogbodum Oyom explained to newsmen, who witnessed the sale that the unexpected high value attached to the properties by bidders was purely a function of how the bidders estimated the value of the properties.

Said he: "It is purely a matter of value and how the buyer rates the properties, especially given their choice locations. The auctioneer has no control over what price a buyer wants to put on any property."

A mini estate of six prototype four-bedroom detached houses with two-room boys quarters was bought for N725 million, each against the asking price of N230 million each.

Another property, Abuja Shopping Mall was bought at N750 million against the N450 million asking price.

Two blocks of furnished 12 two-bedroom flats on 1.85 hectres plot priced at N250 million was bought for N500 million, while a filling station was purchased at N350 million against the asking price of N180 million.

Lt.-Gen Useni’s properties were seized by the Federal Government, on ground that the properties were fraudulently acquired.

Vanguard: Transmitted THURSDAY,  4th May, 2000

... my stand, by Obasanjo *Writes National Assembly; proposes N598b budget, By Sufuyan Ojeifo & Rotimi Ajayi

ABUJA— PRESIDENT Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday dispatched a letter to the National Assembly proposing a new total expenditure of N598 billion for this year, N79 billion less than the N677 billion which the assembly approved in the Appropriation Bill.

But in a counter move, the House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the President to first assent to the Appropriation Bill already passed by the National Assembly and present his observation as amendment to the bill within 14 days.

The letter came on a day Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na’Abba alleged moves by the Presidency to have him and Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo impeached.

In the four-page letter dated May 3,2000, President Obasanjo said the only condition on which he would sign the Appropriation Bill as already passed by the assembly was for the assembly to pass a resolution exempting him from implementing disputed parts of the bill.

PDP’s national caucus after a meeting with the President on Monday had said he would sign the bill by this weekend.

The President’s letter:

"I believe you will agree with me that the meeting held on Monday, 1st May 2000, was most productive and useful for several reasons, including the fact that an amicable relationship between the executive and the National Assembly was restored. That cordiality we must seek to preserve because on it will impact so much in attenuating circumstances of mutual help, understanding, respect and vision in solving the problems of Nigeria.

"Specifically on the Appropriation Bill sent to me for assent, both sides have strong reservations which the meeting addressed in several important respects.

"On oil revenue, our estimate of US$10.7 billion was based on the old production quota. But as a result of increase in production quota, the estimated revenue is now US$11.39 billion which, incidentally, is equal to your own figure. In the same vein, the cash call of US$2.5 billion by the National Assembly has been increased to US$2.6 billion to take care of the variable marginal cost arising from the increase in production quota.

"The Petroleum Profit Tax (PPT) as calculated by the National Assembly was overstated by US$650 million or the equivalent of N65 billion.

"I do not have any objection to the provision of US$300 million in respect of NNPC priority projects.

"On the estimates for domestic crude, both the National Assembly and myself had assumed that the pump price of petroleum products would be fully deregulated in which case NNPC would have paid at export parity. However, this is not the case and NNPC, for now, will continue to pay US$9.5 per barrel. The implication of this is that the estimate for the domestic crude is now being reduced from N208.3 billion to N93 billion, i.e. a shortfall of N115.3 billion.

"Enquiries with Nigeria Customs Service have suggested that it might not be able to achieve a revenue collection target exceeding N100 billion. In respect of Federal Government independent revenue, which has been estimated at N65 billion, I do not have any disagreement with the National Assembly, although I think that N60 billion is more a realistic figure.

"For privatisation proceeds, the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) has advised that N20 billion is a realistic target. I agree with them, especially in view of the relatively slow pace of the privatisation programme so far. There does not seem to be any other significant difference of views on the revenue side. Should there be a significant change in the revenue profile, Supplementary Appropriation Bill (s) will be submitted in the usual manner.

"If you accept all the above, the federally-retained revenue will be N503.2 billion or a monthly inflow of N42 billion. While restricting the deficit level to not more than 2.5% of GDP or N95 billion, we hope thereby to contain inflation at a low level while reflating the economy. Therefore, our total expenditure recurrent and capital - should be no more than N598 billion or a monthly outflow of N49.8 billion. Average monthly deficit will be N7.8 billion as against a statutory ways and means limit of 12.5% of expected inflow, i.e. N5.25 billion, an average monthly shortfall of N2.55 billion. It may be pertinent to mention that whereas the total capital expenditure amount appropriated is stated as N360 billion, the cast of the individual capital items shows a total of N424 billion.

"On domestic debt service, both the National Assembly and myself made a provision of N70 billion as against a more realistic figure of N100 billion because of the commitments of the CBN regarding interest payments on treasury bills.

"Debts on national priority projects are to be paid off in three years - 1999, 2000 and 2001. You will recall that there is a supplementary budget of N30 billion before the National Assembly in respect of debts owed on national priority projects. The House of Representatives has passed this. The Senate is yet to do so. In the 2000 Appropriation Bill, I made a provision of N20 billion which was reduced by the National Assembly to N10 billion. I will plead with you to restore it back to N20 billion.

"For ease of reference, I have highlighted in the accompanying documents, areas in the Appropriation Bill where variances have occurred. However, as a general principle, our position is that on matters which both the executive and legislature agree I will execute.

"However, these areas where there are disputes, or so-called grey areas, there will be exemption from execution. These areas will be subject to harmonisation by the executive and legislature for a subsequent Supplementary Appropriation Bill after a motion for exemption has been passed by the National Assembly. I hereby attach the variances.

"For the avoidance of doubt, what will comprise the bill as passed by the National Assembly will be this letter with the variances attached, and the motion passed by the National Assembly, and this will form the basis for my signing the bill.

"I now await a motion allowing me to execute those portions of the Appropriation Bill about which there is no dispute. On receipt of such a motion, I will sign the Appropriation Bill into law. Shortly thereafter, I will submit an agreed Supplementary Appropriation Bill which will address the issues of the exemption contained in the signed bill.

"The budget for the 2001 fiscal year will certainly have a happier and easier passage because of the consultative mechanism we will put in place in the next few months. My hope is to submit the 2001 budget proposal to the National Assembly not later than October this year. Briefing of National Assembly committees will start by August/September. I hope to sign the 2001 budget into law before 31 December 2000."

Throwing light on the President’s letter, Information Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana, told State House correspondents that it was the outcome of the consultations the President had been having on the issue.

His words: "The following procedures have been agreed in order to resolve the problem over the budget.

"It was clearly agreed that the executive is to execute and the main function of the legislature is to make law. It is a very clear clarification in principle.

"By way of procedure, the constitution provides that Mr. President is to present, as he has done an estimate of revenue and expenditure as a proposed bill to National Assembly and the National Assembly has every right under the constitution to look at this thoroughly.

"It is important that if there are any changes this would have to be discussed with Mr. President.

"In the current situation, (2000 budget) it has been agreed that Mr. President would write a letter to the National Assembly identifying clearly areas of variance or disputed areas within the budget.

"Upon the receipt of that letter identifying areas of variance between what Mr. President presented to the National Assembly and what the National Assembly approved, the assembly would use the content of that letter to raise appropriate motion for resolution on both the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives.

"After the appropriate motion has been passed by the Senate and House of Representatives, indicating that Mr. President and the executive are not bound to implement the disputed areas, Mr. President would now sign the bill into law.

"That letter has now gone to the National Assembly today (yesterday) and we hope that the appropriate agreed motion will be moved may be late by tomorrow (today) and therefore we hope that the bill will be passed into law within the week or at the latest early next week."

*House of Representatives passes resolution

The House of Representatives’ resolution was sequel to a motion by the House Leader, Alhaji Mohammed Wakil and five others.

In a major amendment to Alhaji Wakil’s notion, Mr. Nduka Irabor, proposed that the house should amend the motion to "call upon the President to sign into law, the Appropriation Bill as passed by the National Assembly that the President’s observations be presented as amendments to the 2000 Appropriation Bill," and "that the house will not be averse to pass such amendments to the various provisions of the schedules of the 2000 Appropriation Bill to reflect the reviewed and agreed revenue estimates and subsequent expenditure schedules as observed by the executive branch.

The house noted that the resolution was made in realisation of the fact that its intention and that of the executive on the bill were not completely antithetical but in the overall good of the Nigerian people. It asked the President to submit amendments to the National Assembly within 14 days after the signing of the 2000 bill into law. After the amendments to the motion, it was unanimously passed.

*Na’Abba raises fresh alarm

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba yesterday alleged fresh moves to impeach him and the Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo.

Receiving a delegation of Wuse Market Traders who paid a courtesy call on him, the Speaker said some unpatriotic members of the National Assembly are being used to destabilise the National Assembly."

He claimed that the planned impeachment of the Senate President was part of a well planned move to destabilise the leadership of the National Assembly. He reaffirmed the house’s support for the Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo.

Although he did not disclose the identity of those behind the impeachment move, the Speaker appealed to those nursing the idea to allow the country’s democracy grow.

He reiterated that the legislative must remain independent and urged all Nigerians to use the legislature to express their views on issues.

Vanguard: Transmitted THURSDAY,  4th May, 2000

Date of Article: 05/03/2000
Workers to Resist Attempt to Derail Democracy

EDO State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Steven Williams, Monday vowed that workers would resist any attempt by people to derail the nascent democratic structure on ground.
The state labour leader who was speaking at the May Day Celebration which was held at the Benin Museum ground condemned recent attempts made at scuttling the present democracy.
Comrade Williams, at the not too impressive rally stated, that Nigerian workers were fully ready to resist any action meant to truncate the country's fledging democracy, adding that government must assist in genuine efforts aimed at mobilising and educating the workers on the defence of democracy.
He condemned the plans by the Federal Government's plan to increase pump price of petroleum products stressing that workers were already warming up to protest the policy aimed at deregulation.
Comrade William said, although Edo State may be enjoying the use of petroleum product, other states in the country cannot find it at the official price.
According to him, "this development should concern all of us. I want to use this medium to inform everyone that if for any reason there is a deregulation policy imposed on the people of this country, we might need only 48 hours to go on strike to press home our point."
Speaking at the rally, Governor Lucky Igbinedion noted that the state belonged to everyone and that if any worker was being marginalised, he too will be affected being the number one worker in the state.

Nigerian Post Express